The Incredible Wildlife of Qatar

The Incredible Wildlife of Qatar By Josephine Justin - January 29, 2023
The Incredible Wildlife of Qatar

The Incredible Wildlife of Qatar (Picture Credits: Faro Duniya)

Qatar- the tiny desert peninsula with a coastline of over 560 kms is home to a wide range of flora and fauna. As what comes as a surprise to many, the country is a prime location for many migratory bird and marine species, who stop to enjoy the warm climate the place has to offer, in addition to a bunch of endemic desert beings.

Horned Viper
Name: Arabian Horned Viper
Scientific Name: Cerastes gasperettii
Class: Reptilia
Family: Viperidae

Horned Vipers are found in the sandy desert areas, and feed mainly on small vertebrates and desert rodents. These snakes are nocturnal and are A-grade ambush predators, lying beneath the sand with only the top of the head protruding. 

Horned Vipers are known to be very tolerant of traffic in close quarters. If threatened they will curl up into a horseshoe shape and rub their rough scales together creating a loud rasping sound. Although rare, the bite of this snake can produce life-threatening symptoms.

Rüppell's Sand Fox
Name: Rüppell’s Sand Fox, Sand Fox
Scientific name: Vulpes rueppellii sabaea
Class: Mammalia
Family: Canidae

Ruppel's Sand Fox is a species of fox found in the deserts of the Middle East and Africa. It is the smallest of the true Foxes, with a total body length of just under 15 inches and a weight of around 3 pounds. These tiny Sand Foxes inhabit sandy or stony desert regions, where they are most active at night. They feed mainly on insects, small mammals, reptiles, and fruits. They are also known to eat carrion, eggs, and even smaller birds. They are solitary animals, and usually travel and hunt alone. 

Ruppel's Sand Foxes are listed as a Near Threatened species due to habitat destruction, hunting, and human persecution. They are also threatened by competition for food with larger predators such as the Red Fox, Jackal, and Golden Jackal.

Desert Hedgehog
Name: Ethiopian Hedgehog, Desert Hedgehog
Scientific name: Paraechinus aethiopicus
Class: Mammalia
Family: Erinaceidae

The Desert Hedgehog is the only hedgehog species recorded in Qatar, and can instantly be identified by its spiny coat. The tiny animal has short and sharp spines on its back and relatively short and rounded ears. The legs are long and dark and they help the hedgehog run quickly and lift the body away from the hot sand.

Whale Shark
Name: Whale Shark
Scientific name: Rhincodon typus
Class: Chondrichthyes
Family: Rhincodontidae

Qatar is home to one of the largest whale shark aggregations in the entire world. With its appearance and the confusing name, it often is puzzling whether these endangered gentle giants are a breed of whales or sharks. Although whale sharks share a lot of similarities with whales, it belongs to the shark family. 

These whale sharks can grow up to 20 meters in length, parallel to the stretch of a large city bus and meander in warm and shallow sea waters of the Northern coasts of Qatar, located about 145 kms off the shores of Doha.

Regardless of the riveting moniker, whale sharks impose no threat to humans, whether spectators or divers. 

Greater Flamingo
Name: Greater Flamingo
Scientific name: Phoenicopterus roseus
Class: Aves
Family: Phoenicopteridae

Every year during the winter season, hundreds of flamingos flock to Qatar’s shores on their annual migration from Europe and Siberia to Africa. From November to April, you can catch a glimpse of the Greater flamingo, the largest living species in the flamingo family, averaging 110–150 cm tall and weighing 2–4 kg, at various spots along Qatar’s 563-km coastline.

In recent years, ornithologists have discovered that the Al Thakira Mangrove Forest, one of Qatar’s natural wonders, is a favorite resting spot for these elegant birds.  In these wetlands, they are able to wade in shallow, salty waters, and can easily feed on fish and other crustaceans.

Just around the corner from Al Thakira, and another popular resting spot for flamingos on their stopover journey, is Al Khor Island, also known as bin Ghanem or Purple Island.

Name: Dugong
Scientific name: Dugong dugon
Class: Mammalia
Family: Dugongidae

Having first made their appearance in the waters of the Arabian Gulf approximately 7,500 years ago, Dugongs are majestic mammals that live in the sea. The world’s second largest population of dugongs live in Qatar, with herds of 600-700 dugongs recorded in Qatar’s waters just recently.

Dugongs are herbivores and live on seagrass with eating being their main source of activity. On average, they consume about 40kg of seagrass on a daily basis which is found in clear, shallow and warm waters.

Dugongs are shy and move around a semi-nomadic life with their mothers as calves and alone as adults. They play a huge part in the ecosystem around Qatar and are and are actively studied by the government.

Arabian Oryx
Name: Arabian Oryx
Scientific name: Oryx leucoryx
Class: Mammalia
Family: Bovidae

The national animal of Qatar is the Oryx, with long spear-like horns, sharp and contrasting markings. It is one of four species of antelope that lives in harsh desert environments and is native to the Arabian Peninsula.

An Arabian oryx is easily identified by its bright white coat, broad hooves, along with the long, distinct, slightly curved horns  . The oryx is known to be an animal of tremendous stamina that covers long distances by foot in the desert, at times clocking more than 70km during the night. 

The Al-Maha sanctuary also called the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary is where the breeding of oryxes in Qatar takes place. 

Hawksbill Turtle
Name: Hawksbill Turtle
Scientific name: Eretmochelys imbricata
Class: Reptilia
Family: Cheloniidae

The hawksbill sea turtles, recognized as critically endangered, are known to aid the sustenance of healthy coral reefs and maintain the marine ecosystem. These turtles linger around the coastlines and prefer to live in tropical waters. They’re highly migratory and are spotted in Qatar during the early summer months for the turtle nesting season. While hawksbill turtles are spotted on various beaches in Qatar, the Fuwairit beach’s atmosphere and soft sand create the most perfect nesting hub.   

These amber-coloured shelled turtles arrive each year, with unfailing regularity, to nest on the region’s shores, creating a compelling spectacle of emerging hatchlings.

Name: Falcon
Scientific name: Falco subbuteo
Class: Aves
Family: Falconidae

Hook beaked and sharp visioned, Falcons are birds of prey, recognized as a species of the hawk family with strong talons. Undoubtedly a crucial part of the rich heritage and culture of Qatar, Falcons are highly honoured and celebrated as the national bird of the nation.

They are fierce diurnal birds of the avian world and hunt efficiently during daylight hours. With almost 8 times better vision than the sharpest of human eyesight, falcons silently swoop down as soon as they’ve spotted their prey. The Bedouins introduced the art of trained falcon hunts to the State of Qatar.

By Josephine Justin - January 29, 2023

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